Vicious Teacher Leads Bullying of Disabled Child

Teacher lets kindergarten students vote 5-year-old “out of the class”

After each classmate was allowed to say what they didn’t like about Barton’s 5-year-old son, Alex, his Morningside Elementary teacher Wendy Portillo said they were going to take a vote, Barton said.

By a 14 to 2 margin, the students voted Alex—who is in the process of being diagnosed with autism—out of the class.

The teacher, Wendy Portillo (, has acknowledged that the incident happened. She had been participating in the child’s IEP team since February, so she knew that Alex was being evaluated for a disability.

There isn’t any excuse for any adult treating any child that way, but for a teacher to encourage children to ostracize a disabled child? That’s even worse.

The school district has refused to fire Portillo but claims that she has been moved to non-classroom duties. That isn’t nearly enough.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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3 thoughts on “Vicious Teacher Leads Bullying of Disabled Child

  1. I’m assuming it actually happened this way, and we’re seeing a fair report (which is a big IF) and I’m outraged but past outrages–like the assistant principal who was tracking the gay & straight couples for PDA or the teacher who inspected girls at a prom to make sure they had bras on–have an initial wave of indignation, and after several months the teacher still has a job, protected by tenure, the union, etc.

    If it were my kid (and it could have been, as my kid with AS used to be a 5 year old kindergartener) I’d be plotting to make her next accident actually LOOK like an accident but you watch, they’re going to slap her wrist and in a few months she’ll be back in the classroom.

    Good for the two kids who voted for letting him stay. That’s unbelievable bravery from a small child.

  2. What an awful, awful story.

    I wonder what the truth of the matter is. Prima facie, that doesn’t sound like the behavior of any kind of teacher involved in an IEP process that I’ve ever heard of. It leads to so many questions: was the teacher given any training about Asperger’s Syndrome? Did she even believe it exists? Did she think the kid was being purposely intractable? With the rise in the incidence of Asperger’s Syndrome, that sounds impossible (we’re talking one out of every 150 kids. In that line of work, you run into them all the time, in badly-coordinated droves.)

    So was it a partial story told, incredibly bad judgment, or what? Was it one of those “cry for help” things when a teacher is given an impossible task? Or is there more to the story that we’re not hearing?

    The story seems to echo popular culture’s “reality tv” notions of voting people out of various jobs, islands, etc. Is this happening in other schools and other contexts? Life so often imitates art, which does tend to place some responsibility on art for its representations.

    It’s troubling – that it happened, that it is reported this way. I wonder if we’ll ever find out what more happened, what more there is to the story…

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